Ingredients In A Good Coffee Shop
There are lots of things I love about being in this neighborhood in LA (awesome roommates, the pool, ample parking, fewer egos, etc.), but the one thing I haven’t found near me yet is a good coffee shop. And as any artist knows, a good coffee shop is indispensable to fostering productive creativity (as opposed to unproductive creativity). There are some truly amazing coffee shops in LA, just none really close to home apparently. This of course begs the question, “What makes for a good coffee shop?”
Glad you asked.
1. Half Home/Half Office. The beauty of a good coffee shop is that it’s not home, but not work. It’s that perfect happy medium that let’s you get shit done, but doesn’t look over your shoulder and make sure you’re doing it right. It’s not home, so there are less distractions and you can’t watch TV or roam over to the fridge every 5 minutes, but it’s not work where you feel the need to look busy constantly and have to be subversive in your internet surfing. It has familiar faces, but not familiar enough that you spend your entire time talking instead of doing work.
2. Space. There’s nothing worse than a cramped coffee shop. When you’re packed in like sardines, no one is happy and you might as well be at a bar or drive-through. You won’t be comfortable and can’t stay long. On the flip side, I have been to one that was just too big and felt more like a WalMart – corporate and not at all intimate. Also, the space should feel inviting and tranquil. Industrial fasionista design may look really cool, but it isn’t inviting in the way that makes me want to stay for a while (or come back). The more natural light, the better. Having more than just hard tables and hard chairs is clutch (i.e., couches or at least some padded chairs).
3. Good Coffee. I know, it seems like a no-brainer, but it’s true. Lots of “coffee shops” don’t have very good coffee (for example, Starbucks). I think Whole Foods has great coffee, but they have nothing else required to be a coffee shop.
4. Computer Friendly. Your coffee shop is automatically disqualified if you try to charge for internet use. Really? Charging for internet? It’s not 1999. Coffee and the internet go hand-in-hand like alcohol and laughter. Why would you want to separate the two? Mega bonus points if your shop has numerous, well-spaced outlets.
5. No Attitude. I’ve been to coffee shops that knock it out of the park in every category except for the attitudes. Whether it’s the clientele or the employees, if a shop gives off that trying too hard or too cool vibe, it’s just not meeting the “home” component.
Winning coffee shops score highly in each of these categories. Lagging in one area can be made up for by excelling in another, just as being atrocious in one area can negate the awesomeness of another factor. I’ve actually been to a McDonalds near Madison Square Garden in New York that scores higher on this scale than any Starbucks I’ve been to.
When you need a place to set up shop and submit for auditions, learn your lines, do your script homework, or research for a role, a good coffee shop can't be beat. There’s no particular rhyme or reason to it, but you know it when you see it, and you stop and stay a while.
What do you look for in a coffee shop? Did I miss anything?
(first photo is my own; second courtesy of Chris Hawley)
-- Gabriel Voss